An artificial intelligence system has found previously overlooked possible signs of extraterrestrial life in data collected by SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence organization. The mysterious and powerful radio bursts originated in a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years from our planet.
Unusual and “mysterious radio bursts” have been detected 3 billion light years away from Earth, thanks to an artificial intelligence program at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
Astronomers have detected yet another mysterious and powerful fast radio burst hitting Earth from an unknown source in space. If that’s not strange enough, this particular fast radio burst is incredibly low, in the 580 megahertz frequency range – nearly 200 MHz lower than any other fast radio burst we’ve picked up on before.
A massive number of new signals have been discovered coming from the notorious repeating fast radio source FRB 121102 – and we can thank artificial intelligence for these findings. Researchers at the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) project Breakthrough Listen applied machine learning to comb through existing data, and found 72 fast radio bursts that had previously been missed.
“Not all discoveries come from new observations,” Pete Worden, executive director of Breakthrough Initiatives, a SETI project, said in a statement. “In this case, it was smart, original thinking applied to an existing dataset. It has advanced our knowledge of one of the most tantalizing mysteries in astronomy.”
“This work is only the beginning of using these powerful methods to find radio transients,” said Gerry Zhang in the statement.
“We hope our success may inspire other serious endeavors in applying machine learning to radio astronomy.”
It’s still unclear what is causing the FRBs, with SETI describing their source and mechanism as “mysterious.” Theories include “highly magnetized neutron stars, blasted by gas streams near to a supermassive black hole, to suggestions that the burst properties are consistent with signatures of technology developed by an advanced civilization.”
What makes the FRBs that are emanating from FRB 121102 interesting is that these are usually one-time events. However, FRB 121102 has been unusually active since it was discovered in 2012, with researchers calling it a “repeater.”
The researchers used the scientific program Breakthrough Listen to help go through 400 TB of data and find the 21 bursts, which were all seen within one hour, “suggesting that the source alternates between periods of quiescence and frenzied activity.”
It’s unknown how common FRBs actually are. FRBs, which were first discovered in 2007, are relatively new to astronomers and their origins are mysterious. According to ScienceAlert, some of them can generate as much energy as 500 million Suns in a few milliseconds.
Last month, an FRB that hit Earth was nearly 200 megahertz lower than any other radio burst ever detected. …
… astronomers, including those from Harvard, have also previously said they could not rule out that FRBs may stem from advanced civilizations deep in space.
On Aug. 26, 2017, astronomers with the Breakthrough Listen project — a $100 million effort to hunt for signs of intelligent alien life — spotted 21 repeating light pulses called fast radio bursts (FRBs) emanating from the dwarf galaxy FRB 121102 within the span of 1 hour.
Some scientists think FRBs come from fast-rotating neutron stars, but their source has not been nailed down. And that explains Breakthrough Listen’s interest: It’s possible that the bursts are produced by intelligent extraterrestrials, perhaps to blast space-sailing craft through the cosmos at incredible speeds, some folks have speculated.
The Breakthrough Listen project recently announced the detection of 15 pulses of radio energy from an object known to the astronomy community as FRB 121102.
There have been roughly 30 fast radio bursters (FRBs) detected so far, but FRB 121102 is the only one that has erupted more than once. Repetition is a boon for those trying to unravel the nature of these mysterious objects. It offers the chance to look again with different instruments, and in particular with telescope arrays that can pinpoint the bursters’ position on the sky. Thanks to FRB 121102’s persistent hiccups (it’s been observed to flash more than 150 times), we now know that its source lies in a small galaxy 3 billion light-years away.
That’s not a trivial distance, even by the generous standards of astronomy. The first quasar, discovered in 1963, astounded scientists because of its truly enormous remove. But FRB 121102 is half again as far. When it burped into space the radio signals found by the Breakthrough group, the most advanced form of life on Earth was sea scum.
But FRB 121102 is more than merely far, far away and long, long ago. It’s more powerful than nearly anything you can name. Indeed, if you assume that energy from the burst is radiated in all directions, then in an eyeblink this object let loose about as much energy as the Sun pumps out in a year. Or if that doesn’t impress you, it’s enough energy to run humanity (at its present, prodigious burn rate) for ten trillion years. Mind you, the amount of that energy impinging upon the Green Bank Telescope used by the Berkeley scientists was far less than that required for an ant to twitch a leg.
Read more: SETI
Keep in mind that the most likely actual scenario for discovering ET is that we will get radio or other signals from a civilization that has been gone for billions of years.
We would then know that we were not the only intelligent life to arise in the universe, but probably nothing else would change. Would it change anything for you if there was proof of a 3 billion year old civilization from a distant star, an intelligent code for certain, but indecipherable? Unlike in the movies, we have no universal translator. See Navaho code talkers to understand why, with no context, we might get clear signals but never understand the content. There are many older human languages where we still have no idea what they mean, and these are from our own species. See Wikipedia‘s indeciphered languages article. Here are a few examples of different mysterious lost human languages:
What do the symbols mean? Are they pictographs? Sounds? Words? Concepts? If these were alien symbols, the content could be something we would not guess, in the amounts of curve, imperfections, or the change of direction as the lines were drawn, for example. They may not be symbols at all, but multiple aliens agreeing from different perspectives on something, with results looking like symbols.